The Occupy movement that spread around the US just marked its 3-month anniversary. The movement was first ignored by the mainstream media, then ridiculed. Over time, with the spreading police crackdowns, it is beginning to reveal the true state of America.
For those who identify themselves as the 99%, this movement has come to represent a reclaiming of the public space, a renewal of community and a resurgence of intrinsic citizen power. At the same time, government and police reactions reflect the very struggles that many working class Americans have been experiencing. For instance, the police eviction of camps is just what police have been doing for the banks, evicting millions of homeowners from their houses through legal fraud. From Liberty Square to Bradley Manning Plaza in San Francisco, brazen police attacks against people gathering peacefully have signaled the position of the current government on the direct democracy that has begun to emerge on the streets.
Peaceful protesters in Occupy camps and marches were met with extreme police crackdowns. From students in Denver, to an elderly woman in Seattle, from Oakland to Houston, people were pepper sprayed, physically assaulted and arrested without reason. These violent scenes can make one for a moment wonder if this can happen in the US.
As Obama is finishing his first term in the White House, his political rhetoric of hope and change that once lit up an apathetic youth in America is now viewed with a sense of betrayal and deep disappointment. With the expansion of the wars in Afghanistan and other countries and the continuation of torture in Guantanamo Bay, those who voted for the clever rhetoric now are beginning to realize that the lesser of the two evil always ends with evil. Yet, there are some Obama apologists who still do not to want to face the truth, making excuses and clinging to the last bit of false hope.
This illusion is quickly fading with the US Government’s treatment of the occupy movement. Obama has shown how he is not interested in the 99 percent, who are his supposed constituents and instead it is becoming clearer that he serves the 1 percent. One can note how similar those scenes of police repression of Occupy camps appear to the political climate after 911. Occupiers were exercising the rights supposedly guaranteed under the First Amendment and now these peaceful citizens are starting to be treated as if they are the enemies of the State. In fact, the Dept. of Defense categorizes certain activity of protest as ‘low-level terrorism”.
During the Bush Administration, the absurd ‘war on terror’ was declared. It was a manufactured fear-based program of the big lies that had to do with Muslims in the Middle East being a threat to people in the US with mythical ‘weapons of mass destruction’. This had a distinctly Orwellian ring to it. Renowned scholar and dissident Noam Chomsky called out this hypocritical Bush-Cheney line by characterizing the US as the actual largest exporter of terrorism. But what has happened since then? Obama was carried into power on vague promises that turned out to be huge lies from the start. He soon became the first president to openly assassinate US citizens and supports the stripping of basic Constitutional civil liberties through arrogant executive mandates and unconstitutional legislation.
The final nail in the coffin of the grand US experiment may be Obama’s immanent signing into law of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that that just passed through congress, (conveniently ignored by the corporate media). During Cheney’s manufactured “War on Terror”, the Patriot Act was passed that basically denied Constitutional rights to certain groups of people. Now with the NDAA, the key difference is it strips the most vital constitutional protection from all US citizens. It takes away Habeas Corpus, so anyone can be detained indefinitely without trial just by being called an enemy of the State. This is the foundation of all the other rights in the first ten Amendments. The NDAA also eliminates the Posse Comitatus Act that prevented the US military from attacking its own people. The balance of the Constitutional protections of US citizens from abuse by the Federal government rests on this one provision; the right to access to timely public court hearing if one is detained. Without this, there is fundamentally no difference between the legal structure of the US and any full-fledged fascist state.
This bill immediately brought up concerns from the Japanese American communities who knew from their own experience how this might be used. Chris Anders, senior legislative counsel in the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington Legislative Office spoke of this in an interview on DemocracyNow:
One of the things that’s been really helpful in this debate is the Japanese American Citizens League has come out strongly against this legislation. And one of the things that they are worried about and that they’ve drawn a direct line from is what happened during World War II, where there was an internment of Japanese Americans based on nothing more than suspicion or just, you know, plain-out, old racism, where there was that internment experience of people indefinitely detained without charge or trial …
We don’t have to go far back in a history to see the consequence of this kind of law. The ‘Patriot’ Act of the Bush-Cheney regime gave the corporate and political elite more power by enacting the ability to claim their enemies to be enemies of the state. All they had to do is to point a finger at someone and the rest would be taken care of by the corporate media, amplifying the image of the target. Though this was largely used for ‘bogie-men’ in other lands for resource grabs and to keep the US populace scared, some US citizens were also targeted.
Politicians embedded the rhetoric of homeland security and painted public perception of a terrorist being a mad Muslim in a cave. This was done by way of fear and three conveniently collapsing skyscrapers. With Colin Powell’s lies about Weapons of Mass destruction, this ‘War on Terror’ took root to become what it really is, a war of terror declared on innocent people in Iraq and Afghanistan in a blatant resource grab. The field of fear was ripped wide open and now politicians and pundits get away with inciting murder by publicly calling for abduction or assassination of Julian Assange with no evidence put forward that he broke any laws, let alone there being any charges brought against him. Recently, Republican presidential frontrunner Newt Gingrich joined the choir, calling Julian Assange a terrorist, saying that he should be treated as an enemy combatant and that WikiLeaks should be shut down. This is another ominous precedent. Now the NDAA creates a possibility for this kind of action to be taken against US citizens on American soil by the US military.
In a recent article on Salon.com, constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald debunked the myths portrayed by Obama apologists about this controversial bill. He went through it point by point, showing how it expands the scope of the War on Terror as defined by the original 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) and allows its full force to be brought against the American people:
It allows the President to target not only those who helped perpetrate the 9/11 attacks or those who harbored them, but also: anyone who “substantially supports” such groups and/or “associated forces.”
The last ten years have shown that the people who are identified as “substantially supportive or associates” are determined by the president or the army and this is done without even bothering to offer evidence or justification.
So, if Americans are targeted abroad at the president’s wish and those at home are increasingly speaking out against the destruction of the real economy by the very bankers and warlords that have consistently filled the cabinets of the last three presidents, all it takes is the US government calling someone a terrorist, which is a code word for anyone considered a threat to these entrenched powers. Then, that person can be indefinitely silenced. It is in this ability to incarcerate indefinitely without charge, simply by defining or labeling people for political ends that the real danger of this bill lies, not to mention its blatant unconstitutionality. It should be noted that the current makeup of the Supreme Court does not inspire confidence that they will uphold the highest law of the land from this existential threat.
Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one. – Benjamin Franklin
These words are from one of the architects of the Constitution. By allowing this kind of law to be enacted, America may be entering the final descent, totally betraying the very ideals upon which it was founded. The US Constitution was based on the premise that no one can be above the law. Yet, this type of law (the NDAA) and all the precedents set in the last 10 years serve only to gut the highest law of the land and put the privileged 1 percent above the law. This is the final result of what Glenn Greenwald termed a two-tiered system of justice.
During his presidential campaign, Obama’s slogan of “Change you can believe in” caught the hearts of many American people. Yet, he has already stated his intention to sign this indefinite detention bill into law. Is this the true nature of the “change” that president Obama was promoting during his campaign? This is like Blackwater, the mercenary army, changing its name when it started to get bad reputation. The 2008 election was simply a cosmetic regime change from Bush-Cheney Exxon Mobile to Obama-Goldman Sachs; both parts of one Wall Street-Military-Industrial complex desperately trying to prop up a crumbling fear-based global empire.
Prior to WW2, many Jews in Germany fled their country to the US to seek asylum from the Nazi death camps. It is often said that history repeats itself. Ironically, the country that once was a safe haven for refugees from fascism may now see their own citizens emigrating to countries like Germany because of a total lack of protection from abuse by their own government. That would be a sure sign of an emerging totalitarian regime.
One thing is for sure, a law like this would only be enacted by a government that fears its own people. Perhaps one good thing to come from this is that the wall of illusion has finally come crashing down for those who are willing to see who Obama really is. If people find courage to reject the manufactured fear foisted on them, then like a phoenix, it is possible to find real hope in a new kind of Democracy that will arise from the ashes of this once great nation.
Note: This piece was originally published at WLCentral.